Dealing with mistakes – coaching tools to use with young people you know.

We all make mistakes, they are part of life. Then why do we try and shield our children from them so much? Why do we try and pave the way, so mistakes won’t be made? After all, mistakes teach us how to do it better next time. I often think we shy away from mistakes and don’t honour them because actually we are not sure how to approach them or deal with them. Maybe we find our own mistakes too painful, so we just ignore them.

Here is a great 4-step process that allows you to work through mistakes, learn from them and move on.

1. Acknowledge the mistake.


If you make a mistake in your parenting, acknowledge it and say it. This will allow your own children to do the same. Before you can support a child around a mistake they have made, they first need to acknowledge it and I know this isn’t easy. Children so easily pass the blame or make excuses. When I am working with a child who will not acknowledge their mistakes, I ask questions like

Is that really true?

What part did you play in this?

Could the outcome have been different if you did something different?

What do you think I would have done?

And a host of other questions to help them realise that part, if not all of this is something they need to acknowledge.


  1. Be responsible for the mistake.

This is tricky and even as parents we often blame someone else for the way we behave, in fact adults do this all the time so why are we surprised when children do the same?  Asking the questions above will hopefully help the child take responsibility for their part in the situation. They must feel they are in a safe environment to take responsibility, so ask them what part they are responsible for in a non-judgmental, neutral way. This might take some coaching, some great questions and a lot of patience to get to this point with a child and sometimes may involve recounting the incident, step by step, to see where they could have done something differently that may have changed the situation.

  1. Clean up the mistake

Once they have taken responsibility for the part they played, ask them what they need to do to make this right. Do they need to apologise, forgive someone, forgive themselves or make a plan to do better next time? Whatever it is, help them come up with some ways they can put this right.

  1. Future-proof it.

Ask them how they will make sure this doesn’t happen again. What will they do different next time? What choices do they have available to them next time? The piece is often missed and is the most important in the process as they young person needs to stop the cycle or behaviour.  I often come up with small, easy actions, something the person thinks they absolutely can do next time, not just a wish and prayer. The action or choice they pick here needs to be possible for them in the situation they are in.

How do you help your children or young people deal with mistakes? What tools and techniques do you use?